Last Updated on 19.5.23 by Michael Smoult
According to the BBC, more than two-thirds of UK citizens don’t have a Will. It’s easy to put off making a Will. Thinking about what will happen after you die isn’t exactly an appealing prospect and this might be why lots of people avoid the process. It is important to know when you should make a Will so you don’t end up dying intestate and leaving your loved ones in a tricky and sometimes vulnerable situation.
When should you consider writing a will?
It is important to know when you should make a Will so you don’t end up dying intestate and leaving your loved ones in a tricky and sometimes vulnerable situation. A Will can be very effective in reducing inheritance tax and protecting bloodline inheritance. Making a Will is about protecting your assets, not preparing for death.
The ideal time to write a will in the UK is often sooner than many people might anticipate. Here are a few general guidelines:
- When you turn 18: Once you’re legally an adult, it’s a good idea to draft a will. This is the age when you become responsible for your own legal and financial decisions. Although it may seem premature, having a will ensures that any assets or belongings you have are distributed according to your wishes.
- When you accumulate substantial assets: You should consider writing a will when you’ve accumulated assets, such as a house, car, savings or investments, to ensure they’re distributed according to your wishes in the event of your demise.
- Upon marriage or entering a civil partnership: Marriage or entering a civil partnership often triggers the need to reassess your will, as these events can nullify any existing wills. Make sure to update your will to reflect the change in your marital status and potential addition of assets.
- When you have children: If you have children, it’s crucial to have a will to appoint a guardian for them if they’re under 18, and to ensure they’ll be provided for financially.
- When there are significant changes in your life or relationships: Events such as divorce, the death of a spouse, or changes in your relationships should prompt you to update your will. This can ensure it reflects your current circumstances and wishes.
- When there are changes in legislation: It’s beneficial to review your will when there are changes in the laws surrounding wills and estate administration in the UK.
While these are general guidelines, every person’s situation is unique, and it’s important to consult with a solicitor or legal professional for personalised advice. The process of creating or updating a will can be made much smoother with their help.
If you don’t make a Will your money and property will be distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy and this may not be entirely what you had hoped for, and it may have a detrimental effect on those that you leave behind.
Do you have a child with a learning disability or do you really want your son or daughter to inherit as young as 18 – aren’t they vulnerable at that age?
Why do you need a solicitor for your will?
People worry about visiting a Solicitor’s office. For many years we have been trying to shake off the old impression of fuddy duddiness and believe that clients now actually enjoy the experience which previously they thought to be depressing or dark.
Many people prefer to head for a firm of Solicitors as this comes with the reassurance of professionals who have undergone structured and well-regulated training over many years (and mandatory training on an ongoing basis), as opposed to employing a Will Writer who offers cut-price Wills but do not have the training or indeed experiences that a Solicitor may have had especially if they have worked in a Solicitors office as long as I have!
Have you thought about the impact on your family when faced with the prospect of selling your house to pay for your Nursing Home fees? Right or wrong the majority of families believe that the family home will be their inheritance but with the majority of the population living a lot longer this is not now the case.
Contrary to what is assumed by the majority if you are married and die without a Will the surviving partner will not automatically inherit all your estate.
If you are unmarried your partner will not automatically receive anything and the impact of inheritance tax can be greater for unmarried couples.
Wills can be advantageous for a variety of reasons such as the inheritance tax mentioned earlier but financially speaking you may be facing concerns about how best to provide for your family and in some cases it is either impossible or undesirable to pass assets outright to a person with a disability or to your spouse if they have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
If your child is mentally disabled they will be unable to make the relevant financial decisions themselves, as would someone suffering in old age with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s’. Likewise, physically disabled children under 18 also require someone to make sensible financial decisions on their behalf.
Without proper planning and guidance, you can cause problems for your vulnerable beneficiary as any inheritance could have a huge impact on the level of means-tested benefits they receive. Your child could lose the right to benefits such as Housing Benefits or Income Support as they are only allowed a minimum capital sum of £6000.
In addition, many vulnerable people are unable to manage their own finances particularly if they inherit a lump sum. This leaves them open to being taken advantage of, spending or giving away their inheritance rather than using it for their future.
So, consider making a Will incorporating a Trust to help with
- Inheritance tax
- Protecting your family home
- Protecting any vulnerable beneficiary
Don’t put off making a will any longer, and when with your Solicitor ask them to explain about Lasting Powers of Attorney!
Christine Thornley, Partner & Joint Head of Wills, Trusts and Probate team
Partner & Head of Wills, Trusts & Probate, Wills, Trusts & Probate